Reviews in 200 Words

Archive for the ‘Novella’ Category

Shoplifting From American Apparel by Tao Lin

In Fiction, Novella on March 12, 2012 at 7:33 pm

On the back of this book, it says, “The inmate with a mop / held back the inmate / without a mop.” I almost feel like I shouldn’t say anything else about this book, but I will. It has very little to do with inmates; except, as soon as I see that written, I’m thinking that it has everything to do with inmates, and that we’re all always inmates to something, and that the whole world is helping other inmates out, or not. So, maybe that’s exactly what this book can do. Sam and Sheila are boyfriend and girlfriend, sort of. Not a lot happens in this story; in fact, you could read it and say that it’s about nothing. But then you can’t stop thinking about it, so it must be about something. It’s supposed to be semi-autobiographical. And, if you know anything about Lin, you know that he’s constantly being a subtle genius. People understand him. This book reflects an alternative youth culture that tests the mainstream. Sam gets thrown in jail for shoplifting, more than once. He’s vegan. Life is repetitive. Pretty soon you’ll ask yourself what you’ve done today, this week, this year.

-Micah Ling

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Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

In Fiction, Novella on October 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm

These chapters pass like visions – like the fevered hallucinations that infect a logging crew near the beginning of this spectacular, short burst of fiction. These are pieces of a puzzle, which, when completed shows the weathered and indelible portrait of one Robert Granier. Lumberjack. Freight hauler. Railroader just after the turn of the 20th century. He’s a western type with a weary casualness banked against the severity of the time. He’s simple. Honest. Curious about this world and the people in it. He observes and experiences, but rarely interferes. He lives. He’s solid while others evaporate. He’s a husband, a father and later a widow. He’s haunted by curses and she-wolves and the death that’s more constant a companion than the red dog that happens upon his acre one season. And we, in turn, are powerless against the haunting clarity of Johnson’s writing. Like deathbed daydreams we become – for just 120 pages – Grainier. We see his life as memories. Like puffs of smoke belching from a train stack. And we wish, as we all will likely do when the final pages turn on our own novella, that just one more log might be thrown upon the fire.

-Jay Cullis

The Hands of Strangers by Michael F. Smith

In Fiction, Novella on March 11, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Even life upside down has its routine. This is so humanly true. Times of shock and confusion and trauma cannot last; even these things lead to a new version of normalcy and routine. The only thing to do is give in–to admit that people still need certain things. Jon and Estelle’s daughter, Jennifer, has been abducted in Paris. Their life is search. She’s been gone for more than five months, and when people ask how long, it’s just, forever. That kind of panic can’t continue though, or if it can, it acts out in different ways. Jon meets Iris, relationships strain, fear turns to anger and blame. This is natural–somehow, normal. We can relate to these people: we’ve all seen bad things happen, we’ve all been tested and tired and put to the limit. We’ve all made decisions out of desire and despair: sometimes they’re not so different. This isn’t a tired story, though; things don’t work out quite as expected. In a place like Paris, where people are always moving about and soaking things up, translation can get tricky. By the end, you’ve decided what you’d do: who you’d be–and that might surprise you.

-Micah Ling

Official Release Date for The Hands of Strangers is April, 2011 by Main Street Rag:

More information here

Blockade Billy by Stephen King

In Novella on August 10, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Yeah, I know: Stephen King. Still, he knows what he’s doing–in fact, he’s a genius at it. He always has been. Why else would everyone have gone through a Stephen King phase? Everyone. Actually, if you’re a writer, you certainly should have learned quite a bit from this guy. For one, setting. There’s no question that this is 1957 in Newark, NJ at an old-folks home. There’s no questioning the characters, either. Decades after the brief stardom of NJ Titans catcher, “Blockade Billy,” the third-base coach recounts the drama to an unexplained “Mr. King.” This story is short and more of a conversation–but that’s what’s brilliant about it. King gets you: he gets you because he’s an incredible storyteller. Right when you’re thinking, “this is Stephen King, something creepy must happen,” the darkness sets in. Just when you’re thinking, “how can there be anything unexpected here?” There is. “Blockade Billy” is followed by an even shorter story, “Morality,” almost a dessert to the title story. Both remind us that people do horrible things on purpose; sometimes for money, sometimes for fame, and sometimes just because they really want to. 

-Micah Ling